Supermodel Natalia Vodianova Campaigns To Change Attitudes Toward Disabled People

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Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova is primarily known for one thing: her distinctive beauty which fueled her rags to riches story. In 2012, Forbes named her the third highest earning model, bringing in an estimated $8.6 million in one year. She is also famous for her eight-season, seven-figure contract with Calvin Klein. While all those are pretty big achievements, that’s not what we admire most about the mother of three (soon-to-be mother of 4!).

In case you didn’t know, Natalia was named as one of the Sochi Olympic Games ambassadors, and played a key role as an advocate of the very first Russian Winter Olympic Games. She also has a personal vested interest in the Paralympics specifically, as her younger sister Oksana was born with cerebral palsy.

Natalia teamed up with advertising agency JWT International for a campaign called Neverstop, which aims to change attitudes toward people with special needs—not only during the Games, but all year round.

In the video below, we see the model (at six months pregnant, though you would never be able to tell!) running with a prosthetic leg asking herself via a voiceover whether she would find it difficult to keep moving forward if she lost the ability to walk or run.

“I’d like to think that I wouldn’t give up but it’s more likely that I would have,” she says. “But I know people who haven’t.”

Then we see a montage of many paralympic athletes from around the world competing during various olympic events showing their power and passion at the same time.

“The real problem lies in the misguided perceptions and attitudes of society towards people with special needs. The idea of the film is to raise awareness and inspire people to watch the Paralympic Games, support Paralympians and help to create a change in society’s attitude towards people with disabilities.” says Natalia about the video.

“Paralympic Athletes with their strength and determination show us how you can take the best from what’s on offer and therefore should be seen by us as role models, people who deserve only admiration, praise and our undivided attention.”

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The film was directed by Bruno Aveillan, who says “When Natalia proposed me this project I immediately decided to get on board because I think that in media we don’t see this kind of message enough. Paralympics is definitely a cause that touches me deeply. There’s always a beautiful and strong story behind each and every Paralympic talent. The only thing people have to do to join the cause is to start to watch.”

Natalia talks about how important this video is, especially to the people of her home country.

“The stigma of people with disability is still very strong in Russia, so we wanted to show the inspirational side of the Paralympic athletes. The transition towards inclusivity in a country with an infrastructure like Russia will take a very long time because it’s a very big country with it’s own difficulties. I want as many people as possible in Russia to see the film and would love it to speak to their hearts.”

Aside from the Neverstop campaign, Vodianova is also a founder of the Naked Heart Foundation, a philanthropic organization that strives to provide a safe and inspiring play environment for every child living in urban Russia as well as to give support families raising kids with special needs.

In November 2010, Harper’s Bazaar awarded her with the Inspiration of the Year Award, given in recognition of her philanthropic efforts.In April 2013, she was honored with the Inspiration Award at the fourth annual DVF Awards. The award is given to women “who have demonstrated leadership, strength and courage in the face of adversity, and who use their influence to effect positive change.”The same year, she was also the recipient of Harper’s Bazaar’s Philanthropist of the Year Award.

Not bad for a girl who came from nothing, and now leads the life most girls across the world dream about. But what’s most admirable is her heart to give back and to create awareness and visibility for important issues. Go girl!

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